Every year before the season when I'm trying to get a gauge on the Patriots and their schedule, I typically mark down the annual trip to Maimi as a loss. It doesn't matter the quarterback, head coach, or any other factor for the Patriots, Miami has always been a historic trouble spot. Dating back to the 1989 season, they are 10-23 in games at either Hard Rock Stadium or the Orange Bowl, and 2-8 in the last decade. Some of the wins in South Beach have been big ones over the years, of course - The overtime victory in 2002, the all-out air assault with Tom Brady and Randy Moss in 2007, the 2011 blowout with Brady going for 500-plus, and the No. 1 seed clincher in 2016 all stand out, but the losses are far more frequent.
With that said, the Patriots do catch the Dolphins at an interesting time. Their offensive line was just brutalized by the Philadelphia Eagles, losing old friend Isaiah Wynn for the time being on the interior. With that said, however, they may be getting some monster reinforcement in the secondary, former All-Pro Jalen Ramsey, who would be making his Dolphins debut should he suit up. A great time for him to come back as well, because should Miami lose this game as nearly a 10-point favorite, they would lose the AFC East lead to Buffalo for the time being, based on their blowout loss some weeks ago.
Date: Sunday, October 29
Start Time: 1:00 EST
Location: Miami Gardens, Florida
Stadium: Hard Rock Stadium
TV Info: CBS (Spero Dedes and Adam Archuleta on the call)
Patriots Uniform Info: Blue Tops (Pants TBD, Dolphins wearing Mono-White Throwbacks)
Players Already Ruled Out Before Sunday
Miami Dolphins: None
New England Patriots: Calvin Anderson (OT)
Since the last time the Patriots played them, the Dolphins' defense has settled in near the lower third of the league in most categories. They've allowed over 27 points on average in their last five and have allowed over 350 total yards in three of those tilts. Most stunning is that a team with this solid of a front seven is near the very bottom of the league in red zone defense, ranking 27th in the league (66.6 percent conversion rate) while also having a pretty hard time getting off the field to boot.
One thing that jumped out about last week's loss specifically was how much of an impact tight end Dallas Goederty made. Eagles' OC Ben Johnson found several ways to get him involved, whether on screens, in the flat, or downfield. He only had five catches on five targets, but Goedert gave the 'Fins a ton of problems, and early at that. He picked up back-to-back 22-yard gainers on the game's opening drive.
It's worth mentioning that there are two elite receivers the Dolphins had to put precedent over Goedert for, but attacking with the tight ends should be the main focal point for Mac Jones and Bill O'Brien. They did so in Week 2 with success, so I have no reason to believe they won't do that again.
The big wrinkle is going to be the availability of cornerback Jalen Ramsey. Adam Schefter came out on Thursday and said that the Dolphins were "planning" on the former All-Pro debuting, which Ramsey himself took issue with. Straight from the source, Ramsey said there's a chance he suits up, but it's certainly not set in stone. My guess is if he's active, Mike McDaniel and Vic Fangio will have him on a soft snap count just so he can get his game legs back, but he and Xavien Howard on the outside would be a scary predicament for the Patriots, or anyone else for that matter.
If you look through the betting market right now, you'll see that Patrick Mahomes is the odds-on favorite for the NFL MVP. Well, Tua Tagovailoa has been on an absolute tear so far this year and is either tied or better than Mahomes in most statistics through seven games. With that said, the league leader in passer rating is coming off his worst outing of the season, in which his offensive line was brutalized and banged up in game. Ironically enough, his second-worst game of the season in terms of passer rating, yards, and interception per dropback percentage came against these very New England Patriots. Even with Matt Judon and Christian Gonzalez out of the picture, they've been able to play Tua well in years past, it just hasn't translated to wins for a variety of factors.
The biggest difference between Week 2 and now will be on the offensive front for the Dolphins. With Isaiah Wynn on IR, he joins starting left tackle Terron Armstead, putting two starters out and some reshuffling up the middle. Miami is most likely getting Connor Williams back at center, which would kick Liam Eichenberg to left guard, while Kendall Lamm will continue to hold down the fort at left tackle without Armstead. Not a great sign, as they're coming off their worst outing on the ground as a team, only picking up 45 yards in Philly.
Despite some key skill guys missing practices this week, the expectation is that Miami should be at full strength in the backfield and out wide. Tyreek Hill said he's good to go despite a hip injury keeping him out for a day, as is running back Raheem Mostert after an ankle issue. So far, just three teams have held Hill to less than 100 yards and just one to less than 50. Take a wild guess who that is.
New England Patriots
I don't think it's hard to deduce where the Patriots need to be better defensively against the Dolphins. Even if you take out the 43-yard touchdown that Mostert had, he still averaged 4.58 per carry and frequently got himself carries of at least three yards. I had to double-check this when I saw it, but the Patriots are actually the best run defense in football in terms of yards per attempt, just 3.4 per. I wouldn't classify them as an elite run-defending unit, but in a seven-game sample size where they've played against guys like Alvin Kamara, Tony Pollard, Josh Jacobs, and Breee Hall, that's pretty good.
With Gonzalez shelved for the season, the Patriots will most likely revert to their default Tyreek Hill attack plan by putting Jonathan Jones on him instead of J.C. Jackson. The former LA Charger got burnt big time in press coverage on him for a 45-yard score back in Week 1, and he's probably better suited on Waddle when he's on the perimeter, just not directly on top of him.
On a final note, I want to go to the Dolphins' final drive of the first half in Week 2. The Patriots were too passive in the two-minute drill, allowing Tua to dice them up with multiple chunk plays in about 60 seconds. Then, in last year's opener, remember that the Dolphins scored a late first-half touchdown off some bad tackling angles taken on Jalen Waddle. This is something the Patriots cannot let happen again if they want to win this game.
Even more than Mac Jones' career day, the Patriots' offensive line being as good as they were was the big story after Sunday. As someone who was vehemently against moving Mike Onwenu out to right tackle, that made a world of difference, with Sidy Sow having a career day at right guard as well. As far as moving forward, this is what Big Mike had to say about where he slides in on the O-Line.
"I'm really just approaching it wherever I'm at. I don't choose where I play. At the end of the day, I'm told where I will be. We'll just see where that happens to be." - Mike Onwenu
For Mac Jones now, he has a chance to rise to the occasion again in a venue he's not won in since the 2021 National Title Game against Ohio State. The raw numbers would tell you he's been good but not good enough in two trips to Miami as a pro, and that hasn't cut it. Last week, we saw the formula that could get him back on track for the rest of the year. Get him some quick hitters over the middle, let him work the tight ends, and build up his confidence to work further downfield as B.O'B sees fit. If the run game can step up with this new-look offensive line, that would be fantastic, but I wouldn't hold my breath on that just yet, although Zeke and Mondre have been solid enough these last two weeks
Points Spread: MIA -9.5 (-110) | NE +9.5 (-110)
Moneyline: MIA (-460) | NE (+360)
Over/Under: O 46.5 (-105) | U 46.5 (-105)
Lines via FanDuel as of Friday, October 27
Miami being the favorite here makes a ton of sense, but 10 points is a lot for a game against a team they've only beaten by 10 or more once since drafting Tua Tagovailoa. But considering the Dolphins are 5-2 ATS this year and New England is the exact opposite. That said, I'd lean Dolphins outright, Patriots ATS, and the over in this one. I have a very hard time seeing Miami be held to under 20 for two weeks in a row.
Simply out of principle, I cannot pick the Patriots to win this game. More so of an expect nothing things can only go up, but it's categorically a house of horrors for New England, and there are decades of evidence that leads you to that conclusion. Not to mention as well, this is a game Miami needs to win far more than New England. Not only would they lose the top spot in the AFC East, but they'd be going over to Germany to play the Kansas City Chiefs riding a two-game losing streak. So, it's safe to say they won't be looking past the Patriots, but the Patriots should give them a game again. Even without Brady, they've played the Dolphins tough these last few years.
Final Score: Miami Dolphins 27, New England Patriots 23
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